Starting at just $250, the most affordable of the trio is the Ideapad 330. As you might expect, it's also the dullest in the looks department. The overall build feels plasticky and cheap, though the slightly shiny finish on the top makes it look fancier than it is. I liked the travel in the chiclet-style keys, and as cheap as it is, it felt pretty durable thanks to the sturdy PC-ABS material chassis. If you're looking for a desktop replacement, the 15-inch and 17-inch models seem to be a particularly good fit -- the keyboard even has a numeric keypad.
The Ideapad 330's specs aren't too shabby either. They start with an Intel Celeron Dual Core N4000 and integrated graphics and go all the way up to Intel Core i7-8750H with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX1050 for those that want some extra gaming oomph. The 330 comes in HD, HD+ or full HD screen configurations, weighs about four pounds (more, depending on size), and promises five hours of battery life.
Connection-wise, there are two USB type-A ports, 1 USB type-C port, HDMI, an SD card reader, an ethernet port and 1.5-watt stereo speakers (with Dolby Audio support). The 330 even has an option for a DVD drive, for those who still can't let go of physical media. You can also add a touchscreen option for the display for $50 more.
As much as I think the 330 offers pretty good bang for the buck, you can get a better deal if you opt for the Lenovo 100E, a super cheap education-focused laptop designed in partnership with Microsoft. It's designed more for younger students, but if all you want is something for the classroom, the 100E might be smarter choice.
The next level up is the Ideapad 330S, where the S stands for slim. Sure enough, the 330S is basically the slimmer, sexier cousin of the 330. At 0.7-inch, it's pretty thin and the bezels are much narrower as well. The 330S weighs 3.5 pounds and up, which is a hair lighter than the 330. Instead of a plastic shell, the top of the 330S is clad in aluminum, giving it a much more sophisticated feel. It has the same ports as the 330 as well.
Starting at $500, the 330S comes in 14 and 15-inch configurations, with the option for full HD screens with IPS (in-plane switching). The keyboard is backlit, and there are a couple of powerful 2-watt stereo speakers, also with Dolby Audio support. I liked the feel of the keys here as well with a nice ergonomic travel, and the overall slimmer and chic design of the 330S felt a lot more grown up than the 330. And, just like the 330, you can equip the 330S with an 8th generation Intel Core i7 plus an NVIDIA GeForce GTX1050.
As nice as the 330S looks though, there isn't a whole lot different between it and the 330 aside from looks. If you don't care much about that kind of thing, then it might be best to save a few bucks and go for the cheaper model.
The cream of the crop, however, is definitely the Ideapad 530S. At 0.6-inch thin and weighing in at 3 pounds, it has the slimmest, lightest chassis of the lot, with an all-aluminum body. This ultraportable is meant to be carried around and shown off, either at the classroom or the cafe. Compared to the rest of the family, it has a vibrant and gorgeous 300-nit IPS display that comes in 14 and 15-inch configurations. The screen starts at full HD resolution, and is even scalable to a WQHD wide-angle screen, while Lenovo is promising up to 8 hours of battery life. The price of the 530S starts at around $800.
The keyboard feels really nice, and I love the travel and overall feel of the clicky backlit keys. As you might be able to tell, I am a big fan of how the 530S looks in general; its glossy finish definitely makes it feel a lot more expensive than it is. If I were heading off to college, I'd definitely want this one as my going-away present.
Just as with the other Ideapads, the 530S is upgradeable to the 8th generation Intel Core processor plus NVIDIA MX130 or MX150 discrete graphics. The 530S has all of the ports as on the 330 and 330S, and it also has the option for a fingerprint reader. It boasts Dolby Audio support as well, plus twin optimized Harman speakers.
On the whole, Lenovo's latest Ideapad lineup is a pretty decent selection of laptops for the budget-conscious. The company says you can use these laptops for gaming if you trick the specs out, but then they wouldn't be so affordable anymore. For the power user, I'd probably suggest something like Lenovo's Thinkpad X1 Carbon Yoga instead. In general, these laptops are geared mostly for browsing, emailing, and, yes, occasionally, schoolwork. But that can wait until after summer is over.
All three models will be available on Lenovo's website starting today, as well as your friendly neighborhood supermart.